Movies

Why Does Hollywood Remain Out of Step With the Body-Positive Movement? (nytimes.com) 348

According to a report from The New York Times, Hollywood continues to praise plus-sized actresses in knockout roles and then reduce them to bit parts about physical weight. Slashdot reader cdreimer shares an excerpt from the report: The first thing Danielle Macdonald did at the Cannes Film Festival in May was break into a cold sweat: The airline had lost her luggage. She was already nervous enough. Ms. Macdonald, 26, had been plucked from obscurity to play the lead role in "Patti Cake$," a drama about a rapper that was about to face the Cannes critics. Now she had to find something glamorous to wear -- pronto -- to the premiere. "As a bigger girl," Ms. Macdonald told me recently, "where was I meant to find something that would fit?" Her story then veered in an unexpected direction -- revealing her approach to Hollywood, which expects its lead actresses to be scarily skinny. "I gave myself a pep talk," she said. "This situation is what it is. Find a way to work around it." The red carpet crisis was resolved (another "Patti Cake$" star, Cathy Moriarty, lent her a black dress), but if the experiences of countless actresses before Ms. Macdonald are any indication, it will not be as easy to overcome the career obstacles that await her post-"Patti Cake$."

For women -- less so for men -- weight is perhaps the most stubborn of the entertainment industry's many biases. Have an average-sized body? Call us when you've starved yourself. In particular, Ms. Macdonald must avoid a cycle that plays out over and over in moviedom, one that some film agents coarsely call the fat flavor of the moment. A plus-size actress, almost always an unknown, lands the central role in a film and delivers a knockout performance. She is held up by producers and the entertainment news media as refreshing, long overdue evidence that Hollywood's insistence on microscopic waistlines is ending. And then she is slowly but surely pushed into bit parts, many of which are defined by weight.

Television

YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem (mashable.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."
Transportation

Amateur Drone Lands On British Air Carrier, Wired Reviews Anti-Drone Technology (bbc.com) 152

Long-time Slashdot reader mi quotes the BBC: The Ministry of Defence is reviewing security after a tiny drone landed on the deck of Britain's biggest warship. The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier was docked at Invergordon in the Highlands when an amateur photographer flew the drone close to the giant ship. When the aircraft sensed a high wind risk, it landed itself on the £3bn warship. The pilot told BBC Scotland: "I could have carried two kilos of Semtex and left it on the deck... I would say my mistake should open their eyes to a glaring gap in security."
Meanwhile, tastic007 shares Wired's footage of anti-drone products being tested (like net guns, air-to-air combat counter-drones, and drone net shotgun shells) -- part of the research presented at this year's DEFCON.
China

China's VPN Developers Face Crackdown (bbc.com) 55

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. Now as the BBC reports, developers are facing growing pressure. From the report: The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple's App Store, and filmed it as it was happening. His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China. A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It's essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland. "They insisted they needed to see my computer," the software developer, who didn't want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview. "I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?" No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn't say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented. Then they told him what they wanted: "If you take the app off the shelf from Apple's App Store then this will be all over." 'Sorry, I can't help you with that'. Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.
Youtube

In Response To Anti-diversity Memo, YouTube CEO Says Sexism in Tech is 'Pervasive' (theverge.com) 642

An anonymous reader writes: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has responded to the Google anti-diversity memo, writing in a column for Fortune that the questioning of women's abilities is "pervasive" in tech and that the memo is "yet another discouraging signal to young women who aspire to study computer science." Wojcicki opens by saying her daughter asked her, "Is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?" Wojcicki says no, it's not true, but the question has still plagued her throughout her career. "I've had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I've had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt," she wrote. In the meanwhile, The Guardian reported on Wednesday that more than 60 current and former Google women employees are considering suing Google on the grounds of sexism and a pay gap.
Google

Brits Look at Google and Facebook Every 210 Seconds, Says Survey (theregister.co.uk) 26

Ad companies Facebook and Google slurp one in every three and a half minutes that Britons spend online, according to a survey. From a report: This, says audience metrics company Verto Analytics, accounts for 17 per cent of British adults' time online, the equivalent of 42.7 million days a month across Google, YouTube and Gmail. Similarly, Facebook-owned sites, including the ad-driven data-mining website itself, Instagram and WhatsApp, account for 11 per cent of time online, or a relatively paltry 28.4 million days. "Google and Facebook's share of internet time and ad revenue is staggering considering the hundreds of thousands of websites that exist," said Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics, in a canned statement. The Verto survey also found that of the top 10 websites used in the UK, the sole British one was the BBC. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, "Oath" (the new name for the merged Yahoo-AOL beastie), eBay and Twitter were the others, along with Activision Blizzard.
Youtube

YouTube Adds Mobile Chat, Because Google Doesn't Have Enough Messaging Apps (venturebeat.com) 25

Krystalo writes: YouTube today rolled out the ability to share videos with contacts directly in its mobile app for Android and iOS. Users can chat about shared videos using text, react with emoji, like messages with a heart, reply with other videos, and invite more friends to the conversation (up to a maximum of 30 people per group message). YouTube first started testing letting groups of users share and talk about videos in May 2016. The company then pushed the feature to Canada in January 2017 as a test, since Canadians share more videos online than any other nation. After some tweaks, the Google-owned company is now pushing it out to all its Android and iOS users. "We've been improving the feature since our experiments began last year," a YouTube spokesperson told VentureBeat. "For example, we've made changes to the chat visual; and we've made the video stick to the top of the chat when scrolling down, to allow replying and chatting while watching a video; and we'll continue making improvements." With the new update, YouTube has become yet another Google messaging app, on top of Android Messages, Allo, Duo, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet.
Space

SpaceX Releases Animation of Planned Falcon Heavy Launch (gizmodo.com.au) 108

intellitech writes: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently shared a new (and, really freaking cool) animation demonstrating how the company plans to launch the maiden flight of their Falcon Heavy system later this year, which will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V used for the moon landings during the Apollo-era. According to Elon Musk's Instragram post, "FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket." He also reiterates that there's a "lot that can go wrong in the November launch."

Direct link to the YouTube video.

Microsoft

High School Students Compete In 'Microsoft Office Championship' (latimes.com) 103

An anonymous reader writes: This week the L.A. Times described a 17-year-old from Virginia who'd spent several hours a day perfecting his technique in Microsoft Excel, "one of 150 students from 50 countries competing in the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship" at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. "At stake: cash, prizes and the clout that comes with being the best in the world at Excel, PowerPoint or Word. 'I'm going to do my best to bring it home for the United States,' John said as he prepared for the competition."

Microsoft's VP of Worldwide Education said the event helps students "to become more employable to companies that build their businesses around the Microsoft suite." For example, the article points out, "Past winners have gone on to attend Ivy League colleges and even work at, yes, Microsoft... Delaware resident Anirudh Narayanan, 17, prepared all summer to compete in the Excel 2013 category, 'looking up obscure facts just in case I might need to know it during the test.' He's hoping the skills he honed will help him at Carnegie Mellon University, where he will begin studying economics in the fall. 'I make sure I do a minimum of five hours a week in Excel,' Anirudh said. 'Then for a while I'll be on YouTube watching videos about Excel.'"

John eventually won the first-place prize in the Excel category -- which was $7,000 and an Xbox.
Star Wars Prequels

Warner Music Files Copyright Claim on A Silent 'Star Wars' Video On YouTube (wired.com) 73

rgh02 writes: Earlier this summer, popular YouTube channel Auralnauts received some unfortunate news: Warner/Chappell had filed a monetization claim on their "Star Wars Minus Williams" video through YouTube's Content ID System. More than anything, the Auralnauts were confused -- the video the music company was claiming rights over didn't have any music in it at all.
In fact, the video is almost entirely silent, augmented with a few awkward coughs as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker plod noiselessly toward Princess Leia in a two-minute scene where they're awarded ceremonial medallions. Wired's article describes it as "a tongue-in-cheek tribute" to John Williams' Star Wars score for the film's final scene, also reporting that it had been online for almost three years before Warner/Chappell music publishing claimed rights to all money the video would receive: When I tried to get Warner/Chappell's side of this story, the company offered no comment. But apparently my reporting helped bring the "Star Wars Minus Williams" copyright dispute to an unexpectedly speedy resolution. When Koonce told his YouTube partner manager that a journalist had interviewed him, YouTube stepped in and removed the copyright claim against the video.
YouTube has also created a "Fair Use Protection" program covering legal costs for channels they believe are unfairly targeted with video takedown notices. But the article points out that 95% of the time music companies just chose YouTube's "monetize" option to claim the ad revenue rather than asking that a video be blocked -- and that last year YouTube paid the music industry $1 billion. (Though the music industry insists that amount is still below what they're receiving from streaming music services.)
Games

Ask Slashdot: Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive? 98

This question came from two things noticed by Slashdot reader dryriver:

"Myself and just about every other kid I was friends with in the 1980s were definitely addicted to computers when we were young, and stayed that way until we reached college."

"There is increasing concern about everybody from young kids to people 60+ staring into smartphone, tablet computer and laptop screens for hours and hours every day and not partaking in other activities they used to before the "glowing screen" hooked them."

His question: Are interactive computing devices, whether networked or not, addictive in nature? What kind of applications appear to be the most addictive? (AAA games? Casual games? Social media? Texting?) And could the addiction have something to do with "Neuroplasticity", the fact that doing an activity over and over again each day that you place great importance in, and pay great attention to, can actually rewire the neurons in your brain?
Nicholas Carr once argued that "We're training ourselves, through repetition, to be facile skimmers, scanners, and message-processors -- important skills, to be sure -- but, perpetually distracted and interrupted, we're not training ourselves in the quieter, more attentive modes of thought." Slashdot readers seem uniquely qualified to address this, so leave your own attentive thoughts in the comments. Are interactive computing devices addictive?
Robotics

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel (qz.com) 38

A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.
Cloud

Apple's Adoption Of HEVC Will Drive A Massive Increase In Encoding Costs Requiring Cloud Hardware Acceleration (streamingmedia.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the last 10 years, H.264/AVC has been the dominant video codec used for streaming but with Apple adopting H.265/HEVC in iOS 11 and Google heavily supporting VP9 in Android, a change is on the horizon. Next year the Alliance for Open Media will release their AV1 codec which will again improve video compression efficiency even further. But the end result is that the codec market is about to get very fragmented, with content owners soon having to decide if they need to support three codecs (H.264, H.265, and VP9) instead of just H.264 and with AV1 expected to be released in 2019. As a result of what's take place in the codec market, and with better quality video being demanded by consumers, content owners, broadcasters and OTT providers are starting to see a massive increase in encoding costs. New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs. The mix of SD, HD and UHD continues to move to better quality: e.g. HDR, 10-bit and higher frame rates. Server encoding cost to move from 1080p SDR to 4K HDR is 5x. 360 and Facebook's 6DoF video are also growing in consumption by consumers which again increases encoding costs by at least 4x. If you add up all these variables, it's not hard to do the math and see that for some, encoding costs could increase by 500x over the next few years as new codecs, higher quality video, 360 video and general demand increases.
Mozilla

Inside Mozilla's Fight To Make Firefox Relevant Again (cnet.com) 276

News outlet CNET has a big profile on Firefox today, for which it has spoken with several Mozilla executives. Mozilla hopes to fight back Chrome, which owns more than half of the desktop market share, with Firefox 57, a massive overhaul due November 14. From the report: "It's going to add up to be a big bang," Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard promises, speaking at the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters. "We're going to win back a lot of people." "Some of the stuff they're doing from a technology perspective is amazing," says Andreas Gal, who became CEO of startup Silk Labs after leaving the Mozilla chief technology officer job in 2015. "I just don't think it makes a difference." [...] You may not care which browser you use, but the popularity of Firefox has helped keep browsers competitive and build the web into a foundation for online innovations over the last decade. Are you a fan of Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube? That's partly thanks to Firefox. Mozilla's mission is to keep the web vibrant enough for the next big innovation even as companies offer mobile apps instead of websites, dump privacy-invading ads on you or try to confine your activity to their own walled gardens. [...] To Mozilla, each tap or click on a webpage in Firefox is more than you browsing the internet. It's a statement that you'd prefer a more open future where online services can start up on their own. The alternative, as Mozilla sees it, is a future where everyone kowtows to Apple's app store, Google's search results, Facebook's news feed or Amazon's Prime video streaming. That's why Mozilla bought billboard ads saying "Browse against the machine" and "Big browser is watching you," a jab at Google. [...] Improvements within a project called Quantum are responsible for much of the difference. One part, Stylo, accelerates formatting operations. Quantum Flow squashes dozens of small slowdown bugs. Quantum Compositor speeds website display. And Firefox 57 also will lay the groundwork for WebRender, which uses a computing device's graphics chip to draw webpages on the screen faster. "You can do user interface and animation and interactive content that you simply can't do in any other browser," says Firefox chief Mayo, speaking from his office in Toronto -- over video chat technology Firefox helped make possible. It all adds up to a very different engine at the core of Firefox. That kind of speedup can really excite web developers -- an influential community key to Firefox's success in taking on IE back in 2004.
Google

Google Says AI Better Than Humans At Scrubbing Extremist YouTube Content (theguardian.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google has pledged to continue developing advanced programs using machine learning to combat the rise of extremist content, after it found that it was both faster and more accurate than humans in scrubbing illicit content from YouTube. The company is using machine learning along with human reviewers as part of a mutli-pronged approach to tackle the spread of extremist and controversial videos across YouTube, which also includes tougher standards for videos and the recruitment of more experts to flag content in need of review. A YouTube spokesperson said: "While these tools aren't perfect, and aren't right for every setting, in many cases our systems have proven more accurate than humans at flagging videos that need to be removed. Our initial use of machine learning has more than doubled both the number of videos we've removed for violent extremism, as well as the rate at which we've taken this kind of content down. Over 75% of the videos we've removed for violent extremism over the past month were taken down before receiving a single human flag."
Google

YouTube Red and Google Play Music Will Merge To Create a New Service (theverge.com) 59

YouTube's head of music, Lyor Cohen, confirmed that the company is planning on merging its Google Play Music service with YouTube Red to create a new streaming offering. "The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering," Cohen said. The Verge reports: Right now, YouTube's music ecosystem is unnecessarily complicated. There's YouTube Red, which removes ads from videos and lets you save them offline, while also giving you access to Google Play Music for free. Then there's YouTube Music, which anyone can use, but it gets better if you're signed up for YouTube Red. And YouTube TV is also a thing -- an entirely separate thing -- but it's not available everywhere yet. The merger has been rumored within the industry for months, and recently picked up steam after Google combined the teams working on the two streaming services earlier this year. In a statement to The Verge, Google said it will notify users of any changes before they happen. "Music is very important to Google and we're evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we'll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made."
Businesses

Verizon Accused of Throttling Netflix and YouTube, Admits To 'Video Optimization' (arstechnica.com) 52

New submitter dgatwood writes: According to an Ars Technica article, Verizon recently began experimenting with throttling of video traffic. The remarkable part of this story is not that a wireless ISP would throttle video traffic, but rather that Verizon's own Go90 video platform is also affected by the throttling. From the article, "Verizon Wireless customers this week noticed that Netflix's speed test tool appears to be capped at 10Mbps, raising fears that the carrier is throttling video streaming on its mobile network. When contacted by Ars this morning, Verizon acknowledged using a new video optimization system but said it is part of a temporary test and that it did not affect the actual quality of video. The video optimization appears to apply both to unlimited and limited mobile plans. But some YouTube users are reporting degraded video, saying that using a VPN service can bypass the Verizon throttling."
If even Verizon can get on board with throttling sans paid prioritization, why is Comcast so scared of the new laws that are about to go into effect banning it?

NASA

NASA Uploads Hundreds of Rare Aircraft Films to YouTube (gizmodo.com) 61

An anonymous reader shares an article: NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center is currently in the process of uploading hundreds of extremely rare films to YouTube. And I'd advise you to stop reading if you want to get any work done today. The center has uploaded roughly 300 of the planned 500 films that it will continue to put up over the coming months. And as you can see from the well-populated YouTube channel, they have everything from 1950s experimental aircraft like the X-3 Stiletto to 1960s Lunar Landing Research Vehicle tests (seen in the GIF above) to videos of the time that they intentionally crashed a Boeing 720 in 1984.
Youtube

YouTube Will Now Redirect Searches For Extremist Videos To Anti-Terrorist Playlists (tubefilter.com) 136

YouTube will return anti-terrorist playlists when users search for hateful content on the site using certain keywords pertaining to terrorism. Tubefilter.com reports: The new feature, dubbed The Redirect Method, is part of a four-prong strategy announced by Google last month to quash extremist ideologies across its platforms. The Redirect Method was developed by Jigsaw -- an Alphabet subsidiary whose mission is to counter extremism, censorship, and cyber attacks -- alongside another tech company called Moonshot CVE (which stands for "Countering Violent Extremism"). Jigsaw and Moonshot CVE developed the tech after studying, over several years, how terrorist factions like ISIS leverage technology to spread their messaging and recruit new followers. In coming weeks, YouTube says it intends to incorporate The Redirect Method into a wider set of search queries in languages beyond English, use machine learning to dynamically update search terms, work with partner NGOs to develop new anti-extremist content, and roll out the Method to Europe.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 161

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

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